Monday, January 28, 2008

The console/online game divide and changing business models

From Gamasutra, a focus on the console/online game divide in Korea with commentary from Stephen Lee of Nexon (MapleStory) with reference to interviews done during Korea's G-Star games show.

Related to that is an announcement from EA that it plans to make a major departure from its traditional business model (box sales) and distribute an installment of its hit Battlefield series as a free download on the Internet.

Rather than being sold at retail, the game is meant to generate revenue through advertising and small in-game transactions that allow players to spend a few dollars on new outfits, weapons and other virtual gear.

At a conference in Munich, the company intends to announce that the new game, Battlefield Heroes, will be released for PC this summer. More broadly, E.A. hopes the game can help point the way for Western game publishers looking to diversify beyond appealing to hard-core players with games that can cost $60 or more.

E.A.’s most recent experiment with free online games began two years ago in South Korea, the world’s most fervent gaming culture. In 2006, the company introduced a free version of its FIFA soccer game there, and Gerhard Florin, E.A.’s executive vice president for publishing in the Americas and Europe, said it has signed up more than five million Korean users and generates more than $1 million in monthly in-game sales.

NYT story here>>

Because gaming is indeed a global industry, it is really interesting to see how business models are changing to actually reflect the dynamics of local user cultures. This is illustrated by plans to obtain revenues by bringing micropayments (e.g. buying shoes for one's avatar) to Western players along with other such strategies (that cope with piracy issues) that have been used in Korea for quite some time. Instead of fighting the tide by clamping down on piracy in the name of antiquated business models, there is room to be creative and find new and innovative ways to remain competitive in the industry.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

10 million players worldwide. WoW.

The story of the day is Blizzard's announcement that their MMORPG World of WarCraft has recently surpassed the 10 million subscriber mark... and that's not including people who share one subscription with multiple characters (like younger siblings in a household).

I wonder if World of WarCraft can get status as a 'religion' for tax purposes.

Read more at Kotaku>>

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Original Human TETRIS performance

Getting some revisions out the door at the moment, but here's something to chaw on: human bodies as shapes in a game of TETRIS, by Guillaume Reymond.
See the video on YouTube here>>

Ah, pleasant memories of playing early morning monochrome Tetris in my school's PC lab...

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Monday, January 14, 2008

EA establishes development base in Korea

On Thursday, Electronic Arts announced that it plans to set up a development studio in Korea within the year and create three or four new online games.

Famous for hit series such as "FIFA Soccer" and "The Sims", the company's sales stand at US$3.7 billion.

The Chosunilbo reports:

EA aims to secure talented Korean game developers to lay the foundation for a future advance into the Asian market. Senior producer Danny Isaac will head the new studio.

"The size of the studio hasn't been decided yet," a company source said. "First we plan to recruit dozens of workers to develop the 'NBA Street' and 'Battle Field' online games, but if we have more applicants than expected we may increase the size of the studio and develop another game.”

The company estimated that it will invest at least W20 billion (US$1=W938) in the studio.

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Start off the New Year right...

...with some reading from Games and Culture: A Journal of Interactive Media, published by SAGE.

Dal Yong Jin
and I have an article published in the latest issue of Games and Culture (2008, Vol.3 Issue 1, pp. 38-58) titled, "Age of New Media Empires: A Critical Interpretation of the Korean Online Game Industry."

The table of contents along with access to the text can be found here at the Sage Journals Online website:

Alongside articles that take up games in the Asia-Pacific, our paper is a combination of political economy and ethnography from our research on Korean online games.

Abstract: In this article, the authors attempt to ascertain the factors involved in the swift growth of online games in the context of broader sociocultural elements. Through political economy and ethnographic analysis, they show that online games, like other forms of technology, are sociocultural products that have been historically constituted by certain forms of knowledge and social practice. First, they map out the forces driving their development by examining government policies and competition among online games companies in Korea. They then explore capital flow to investigate the major players in the market. Finally, they explore the sociocultural elements contributing to the diffusion of online games in the cultural milieu specific to Korea.

Key Words: ethnography • Korea • online games • policy • political economy

Happy New Year all, and happy reading! All accusations of geeking out apply.

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